Next they sent forth to him some of the Pharisees and of the party followers of Herod, to catch him in his speech… Detecting their hypocrisy, he said to them: “Why do you put me to the test? Bring me a denarius to look at.”
They brought one.
And he said to them: “Whose image and inscription is this?”
They said to him: “Caesar’s.”
Jesus then said: “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.”
– Mark 12:13-17
This passage from the Gospel of Mark is universally famous for those words in the final line. However, the context of this entire passage is profound because it reveals much about the financial system in Judea of the first century A.D. It is important to understand this background in our consideration of the schism that existed, then and now, between the Suppressor class of Temple-Banksters, and their nemesis, the Liberator, Jesus Christ.
Who is the “they” of “they sent forth …”? The verses above this passage indicate that the instigators of this verbal attack on the Great Teacher were none other than the “chief priests, scribes, and older men” of the Jerusalem temple. Already we see a picture forming of a class of men who have so much power and authority that they are able to send out a group of subordinates as agents to do their bidding. Their plan is to entrap Jesus over the issue of whether the Jews should accept taxation by the overlording Roman Empire.
If Jesus answers, “Yes, you must pay your taxes,” this would be a response wholly unpopular with the zealot movement of those days. The zealots were stirring up a nationwide revolt against Rome and would gladly put an end to any man who tells the people that they must continue in servitude to Rome. The High Priest could then sit back, keep his hands clean, and let the enraged zealots do the dirty job of murdering this man, Jesus.
If, on the other hand, Jesus answers, “No, you shouldn’t pay your taxes,” then the High Priest could still sit back, keep his hands clean, and let Roman law take its course by having Jesus arrested for sedition and carried off to the executioner.
This was the aim of the priesthood of Jerusalem: get rid of this man, Jesus Christ, and we don’t care who gets the job done, just get it done. And their tool of choice in this issue was nothing less than the sovereign right to issue official money and collect it back in the form of taxes.
But why did the priesthood of Jerusalem feel so threatened by the presence of this man who was so loved and admired throughout the breadth and length of Palestine?
The short answer is because the High Priest of Jerusalem controlled the two most important tools of any oligarch: the nation’s money supply and elitist insider knowledge. The miracles that Jesus Christ had been performing for three-and-a-half-years showed that his power and authority would have superseded the High Priest’s power in both of those areas.
The relationship between the High Priest and the money supply will be considered here in Part Two of “Water Into Wine.” The “insider knowledge” aspect of this oligarchy will be considered in a future blog, Part Three.
To begin our quest in understanding this relationship, it is useful to learn that the temples in ancient times were used for more than just religious services. According to the book “Babylon’s Banksters,” by Joseph P. Farrell, the coin of the realm was actually minted in the temples. Farrell quotes from another author, Alexander Del Mar, on this topic:
“[T]he superior value of gold in the West was created by means of legal, and, perhaps, also sacerdotal ordinances.” In other words, there is a deep and profound connection between the issuance of money, its fixation of value in law in terms of precious metals whose value in turn is defined by ratios per unit of gold on the one hand, and religion on the other. In short one is in the presence of the deep connection of ancient conceptions of money, and religion … between “temples” and “trusts.”
Del Mar has already suggested the answer; it was because in some measure, gold was regarded as sacred, as being under the special jurisdiction of the gods: The sacerdotal character conferred upon gold, or the coinage of gold, was not a novelty of the Julian constitution (of Rome); rather was it an ancient myth put to new political use… A similar belief is to be noticed among the ancient Greeks, whose coinages, except during the republican era, were conducted in the temples and under the supervision of priests. Upon these issues were stamped the symbolism and religion of the State, and as only the priesthood could correctly illustrate these mysteries of their own creation, the coinage — at least that of the more precious pieces — naturally became a prerogative of their order.
Succinctly stated: the bullion trust and the temple are at the minimum allies, and at the maximum, the one has infiltrated and taken over the other. [ref: Babylon’s Banksters, pp 161-163]
In fact, a casual browsing of the Internet reveals that the Forum of Rome was the “Wall Street” of its time, the financial center of trade and markets. The Forum was also the setting of dozens of temples and, hence, the minting of official coinage. Notice this citation [ref: www.futurestech.net/history.htm]:
The Forum in Rome was initially established as a trading center. At the height of the Roman Empire, 19 such trading centers, called Fora Vendalia (sales markets), served as distribution centers for commodities that the Romans brought from the far corners of the Empire.
Wikipedia also shows the close alignment between the temples of Rome and her government offices [ref: wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Forum]:
The oldest and most important structures of the ancient city were located in or near the Forum. These include its ancient former royal residency the Regia as well as the surrounding complex of the Vestal Virgins, both of which were rebuilt after the rise of imperial Rome. The kingdom’s earliest shrines and temples were located on the forum’s western edge. These shrines developed into the Republic’s formal Comitium, where the Senate, as well as Republican government began. The Senate House, government offices, Tribunals, religious monuments, memorials and statues cluttered the area…. The Forum would serve as the new city square where the people of Rome could gather for political, judicial and religious ritual in greater number. The Forum became the economic hub of the city, as well as the center of the Kingdom, Republic and Empire.
Answer: The Roman denarius coin was not the only coin circulating in Judea. History tells us that Jerusalem’s High Priest had been given official authority by Rome to mint his own coins for local use in the Palestinian provinces!
Yes, the ancient historian Josephus, tells us as much, in his epic work “Antiquities of the Jews” [ref: www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0146:book=13:section=218&highlight=coin ]
book 13, section 218
However, we must exactly observe here, what the remaining part of that book of the Maccabees informs us of, and what Josephus would never have omitted, had his copy contained so much, that this Simon the Great, the Maccabee, made a league with Antiochus Soter [nicknamed Sidetes?], the son of Demetrius Soter, and brother of the other Demetrius, who was now a captive in Parthis:
that upon his coming to the crown, about the 140th year before the Christian sets, he granted great privileges to the Jewish nation, and to Simon their high priest and ethnarch; which privileges Simon seems to have taken of his own accord about three years before.
In particular, he gave him leave to coin money for his country with his own stamp; and as concerning Jerusalem and the sanctuary, that they should be free, or, as the vulgar Latin hath it, “holy and free,” 1 Macc. 15:6, 7….
All went well for a few decades. However, a period of strife, some internal, some external, settled in and the Hasmoneans lost their dynasty to the new family of power, the Herods. In 40 B.C.E., the Roman senate officially conferred the title “King of the Jews” upon the man who came to be known as Herod the Great [ref: wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasmonean]. His son, Herod Antipas, carried the title “tetrarch” (or, “ruler of a quarter”), rather than “king” because Rome saw fit to split up the jurisdiction of Palestine among Antipas and his brothers. It was this Herod Antipas who was the secular ruler of Judea at the time of Jesus’ adulthood.
But what became of the office of High Priest? Even though the Hasmoneans had lost their double grip on Judea as both High Priest and King, the power of High Priest still remained “in the family” through the Roman appointment of Annas as High Priest of Jerusalem. Annas and his son-in-law, Caiaphas, held a sort of joint position as High Priest during the lifetime of Jesus. The family of Annas was in deep collusion with the Herods, partly to maintain civil order, and partly to maintain guardianship of the temple treasury. This was the role the High Priest played in the social structure of the Judean province of Jesus’ day, according to the following reference: [ref: www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/jesus/jesuskeyfigures.html ]:
The high priest had another, more controversial function in first-century Jerusalem: serving as a sort of liason [sic] between Roman authority and the Jewish population. High priests, drawn from the Sadducean aristocracy, received their appointment from Rome since the time of Herod the Great, and Rome looked to high priests to keep the Jewish populace in line.
Although little is known of Caiaphas, historians infer from his long tenure as high priest, from 18 to 36 C.E., that he must have worked well with Roman authority. For ten years, Caiaphas served with Roman prefect Pontius Pilate. The two presumably had a close relationship. It is likely that Caiaphas and Pilate had standing arrangements for how to deal with subversive persons such as Jesus.
Caiaphas’s motives in turning Jesus over to Pilate are a subject of speculation. Some historians suggest that he had little choice. Others argue that Caiaphas saw Jesus as a threat to the existing religious order. He might have believed that if Jesus wasn’t restrained or even executed that the Romans might end their relative tolerance of Jewish institutions.
High priests, including Caiaphas, were both respected and despised by the Jewish population. As the highest religious authority, they were seen as playing a critical role in religious life and the Sanhedrin. At the same time, however, many Jews resented the close relationship that high priest maintained with Roman authorities and suspected them of taking bribes or practicing other forms of corruption.
Unlike other Temple priests, Caiaphas, as a high priest, lived in Jerusalem’s Upper City, a wealthy section inhabited by the city’s powers-that-be. His home almost certainly was constructed around a large courtyard.
Consider, please, the implications of the above statement “that if Jesus wasn’t restrained or even executed that the Romans might end their relative tolerance of Jewish institutions.” This is a key point!
Which “Jewish institutions” might the High Priest not want to lose? Well, his expensive standard of living, for one thing. As High Priest of the temple, the family of Annas made money from every activity that was transacted at the temple. Consider the information presented here: [ref: www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0014_0_14119.html]
In the period of the Second Temple vast numbers of Jews streamed to Palestine and Jerusalem “out or every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5), taking with them considerable sums of money in foreign currencies. This is referred to in the famous instance of Jesus’ driving the money changers out of the Temple (Matt. 21:12). Not only did these foreign coins have to be changed but also ordinary deposits were often handed over to the Temple authorities for safe deposit in the Temple treasury (Jos., Wars 6:281–2). Thus Jerusalem became a sort of central bourse [or, stock exchange] and exchange mart, and the Temple vaults served as “safe deposits” in which every type of coin was represented (TJ, Ma’as. Sh. 1:2, 52d, and parallels).
The business of money exchange was carried out by the shulhani (“exchange banker”), who would change foreign coins into local currency and vice versa …. . The shulhani served also as a banker, and would receive money on deposit for investment and pay out an interest at a fixed rate (Matt. 25:27), although this was contrary to Jewish law.
The Temple in Jerusalem had become a sort of central bank of the nation, and the High Priest was “Head of The Fed,” with revenue being derived from any and all business that was conducted there — from the buying of animals to be used in sacrifice, to foreign exchange, to the actual business of receiving deposits from those same foreign visitors and lending out reserves with interest. Add to this the information presented above regarding how the High Priest had been granted authority to mint and circulate his own coinage and you have the makings of a sweet-smelling oligarchic monopoly of the region’s entire financial system!
The only way to keep that apple cart from being upset was to make sure that nobody could possibly come along to divorce the close ties between the Jewish priesthood and the entity who handed out High Priest appointments: the Roman government itself.
But then the Temple-Banksters’ worst nightmare came true. Along came a man who spent more than three years of his life demonstrating that he would be the best ruler Earth has ever known — and what’s worse — who clearly had no intention of marrying his kingdom to the empire of Rome. Jesus made his opposition to the Bankster class very visible by twice entering the temple and evicting the money changers. Also, his parable known as the “Rich Man and Lazarus” (see Luke 16:19) may have made sly reference to Annas and his five sons by way of the wealthy character in the story who had “five brothers.” The temple leaders were in fact present when Jesus uttered the parable and most likely “got the point.” They could see that there was no way that Jesus, if allowed to become King as all the Messianic prophecies proclaimed, would ever be compelled by the family of Annas to let the good times of the High Priest keep rolling.
Therefore, the Priesthood of Jerusalem determined that the elimination of Jesus Christ from the world scene would be necessary if they were to keep control of the Money Game in Judea. But they had another asset to protect as well, and we use this term generously: insider knowledge. Yes, the High Priests had allowed themselves to fall into the spiritually adulterous trap of astrology and the use of uncanny power — a tradition that is still in use today by the bankster world. This topic will be covered in Part Three of our series “Water Into Wine.” If you missed Part One, you can bring yourself up to speed by clicking here.
(To bide your time before our next blog is posted, you might want to consider the question “What Is God’s Kingdom?” You can find the answer in Chapter Eight of the book “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” available for browsing in its entirety here, online, for free.)